What is your covid protocol these days? Do you carry hand sanitizer at all times? Do you mask up in the grocery store? How about restaurants? Have you attended a concert or watched a movie in a theater? Now that mandates are lifted there are so many decisions to make. Some people seem to have a clear criteria that guides them in every circumstance. Others haven’t a clue. I find myself somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
Turns out pandemics don’t stop all of a sudden (we tried that last June and it didn’t work). Pandemics slowly trail off in a fog of confusion. The virus that causes Covid-19 remains almost as mysterious as it was when it first appeared and we are left to use our best judgments in the face of educated guesses.
When Covid-19 first appeared I was serving a church in a state that decided to employ no mandates at all, leaving all decisions up to individual businesses. I remember saying to my session and anyone who would listen “we need shared agreements,” “WE NEED SHARED AGREEMENTS!” Everyone was watching different news channels and had differing views on what we were dealing with. As a result, one person’s friendly gestures (the offer of a handshake) was another person’s life threatening attack. Hurt feelings were starting to pile up. I feared that if we didn’t come to a clear understanding of how we did things we might suffer lasting damage as a community. But that meant that we had to decide basic simple things that not everyone would agree with. Regardless, we had to decide. It was hard work, but we did it.
So when Santa Barbara county removed the mandates I knew that there was work ahead. We have to find our own shared agreements. Fortunately, St. Andrew’s has a Health Task Force, a group of five people who are not afraid to disagree with one another. Their rigorous and informed debates conclude in decisions that are both reasonable and safe. I am grateful!
The Health Task Force met this Monday and decided two things of particular note:
Starting on Maundy Thursday (April 14) we will reintroduce communion by passing the elements on trays prepared by deacons wearing gloves. The pre-packaged elements will be available for those who wish to avoid touching the plates.
Starting Palm Sunday we will return to passing the offering plates.
We will stock the pews with sanitizing wipes.
I know that leaves a few more questions, for example:
When will we take off the masks? (the county health department still strongly recommends them indoors)
When will the prayers of the people, passing the peace, or the choir return (we will tackle those questions at our next meeting but there are other considerations that affect those decisions).
Among the many lessons that covid has taught us, patience is high on the list. I am looking forward to the return of a more familiar communion and the shared act of offering. I hope their return brings to mind a deep appreciation for how far we have come and how much we have endured.